I love the concept of The London Séance Society, but some of the magic was lost in the execution.
I mean, a murder mystery with sapphic séances? Sounds right up my alley. I’m not sure if The London Séance Society needed more editing or if I just struggled to focus, but the narrative seems to ramble in a way that was hard to focus on the details.
Something Penner does well is placing you in the spiritualism movement of Victorian England. The popularity of the movement and the controversy between ‘real’ séances and illusionists all come to life in this gothic story. I love the structure Penner adds into the process of holding a séance and the tug-of-war between belief and scientific fact.
I wanted to like Lenna and Vaudeline more than I did. While Vaudeline did have a little range, Lenna was very stuck in her role of logical science believer. And for someone whose profession is mired in skepticism, Vaudeline is awfully sensitive to criticism. Sure, some of her sensitivity comes from wanting Lenna to hold her in higher esteem, but she should have a much thicker skin than she displayed here.
There are some good twists and turns, the atmosphere is wonderfully gothic, and there are definitely good parts in The London Séance Society. It picks up steam as you go along and feels like an outright sprint in the end. Unfortunately, it just takes too long to get there, and parts of the narrative feel unnecessary or unexplored.